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Rustic Wood Side Table 


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Rustic Wood Side Table 

Written By: Joe Szuecs 



• Drill (1) 

• Drill bits (1) 

• Sander M) 

Various sanding devices. 


• Vise-grips (1) 

or other lockina pliers. 


• Branch (1) 
Tripod-like tree branch. 

• Wood(1) 
Cross-section of tree trunk. 

Dowel screw (1) 


I had a dying madrone (Arbutus menziesii) in my backyard. Looking at its structure, I noticed 
a nice 3-pronged junction of branches a few feet above my head. I thought this would make a 
nice tripod base for a small side table, so with a bit of trial and error and a slice of another 
tree trunk for the top, this little rustic side table was born. 

The antithesis to mass-produced commercial goods, this piece is funky and original by 
definition, made with found forest objects. It comes with a guarantee that no one else will 
have one just like it. 

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Rustic Wood Side Table 

Step 1 — Find a suitable branch junction. 

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Rustic Wood Side Table 

• For the base of your table, you'll 
need to find a tree branch like 
mine. The branches should be thick 
enough, about 1 1/2", to support a 
reasonable load: at least a stack of 
books or magazines, although 
probably not a person. 

• It's unlikely that you'll have a 
suitable tree on your, your 
landlord's, or your neighbor's 
property. Check with a local 
arborist. They cut down trees all 
day long. Let them know what 
you're up to, and for little or no 
money they'll probably have a nice 
base for you in a few days. 

• Look for a deciduous hardwood. 
Conifers won't offer 3- or 4- 
branched junctions. They're also 
filled with sticky gummy resin. It's 
also best to find a tree that's been 
dead for a while. The wood will be 
dry and stable, which is preferable. 

• If you do have a tree available, 
grab a saw and cut it down. Now, 
downing trees is pretty dangerous 
work. My tree was small and 
manageable. If you don't have 
much experience with tree work, 
find someone with experience to 

• When obtaining your base, leave 
plenty of extra length on all the 

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Rustic Wood Side Table 

Step 2 — Get a slice of trunk for the top. 

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Rustic Wood Side Table 

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• For the top of the table, you'll want 
a cross-section of a larger tree, 
about 10" to 12" in diameter. Once 
again, an arborist is your best bet. 
Just have them cut a few cross- 
sections of a tree trunk. Ask them 
to cut 2" to 3" slabs and to make 
them as even as possible. In this 
case, it will be difficult to find dry 
wood. So just go with "green" 
hardwood. I recommend maple, 
oak, or walnut. 

• Depending on the type of tree and 
time of year, the bark may or may 
not peel easily. For this project, I 
peeled the bark off the base and 
left it on the top. Any way works, 
so it's up to you. 

• Before you move on with the 
project, inspect your base and top 
for any signs of insect damage or 
rot. Numerous neat holes in the 
surface of the wood are indicative 
of insect infestation. So are fine 
dust or granules. If either of these 
conditions exist, go back and pick 
a new base. You don't want to 
inadvertently introduce wood-eating 
beasties into your home. 

• Finally, it's highly likely that the 
cross-section for your top will form, 
or already has, radiating cracks. 
The outer rings of the cross- 
section are less dense than the 
center rings. As the wood dries, the 
amount of shrinkage is greater in 

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Rustic Wood Side Table 

the less dense areas. This is 
normal and, in my opinion, adds 

• As an alternative to rough wood, 
some Asian restaurant supply 
stores offer cutting boards that are 
simply sections of tree trunks. One 
of these will make a fine top for the 
side table. 

• You can find some at . in with the 
cleavers and knives. 

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Rustic Wood Side Table 

Step 3 — Tame the top. 

• Take a look at your trunk cross-section. One side is going to be easier to work, having 
fewer deep saw marks, for example, than the other. You'll save yourself some work by 
making that the top surface. 

• A belt sander will make evening out the top surface a breeze. Start with a rough grit, like 
50. Now, just grind that sucker flat. 

• You'll notice in that I screwed 2 pieces of scrap wood into my worktable to secure the 
cross- section while sanding. Unless you like stopping fast-moving chunks of wood with a 
tender area of your body, this technique is highly recommended. 

• Remember to rotate the top occasionally to even out the grit marks. If you don't have 
access to a belt sander, use an orbital sander with 60-grit paper. It will take longer and 
you'll use more sandpaper. 

• Turn the top over and clean up the bottom. You don't need to be perfect here, just even it 
out a bit. 

• Change the belt to a medium grit, 100 or 120. Work the top surface until smooth. Finally, 
using an orbital sander and 120- or 150-grit paper, sand the top surface even smoother. 

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Rustic Wood Side Table 

Step 4 — Join the top to the bottom. 

• Connecting the tabletop to the base is easy. In most hardware stores you'll find something 
called a dowel screw: basically, 2 screws connected head to head. Select the largest 
dowel screw that fits; it shouldn't be longer than the top is thick. Select a drill bit that's 
almost as wide in diameter as the dowel screw. Just line them up and eyeball it. 

• You want the screw threads about 1/8" to 1/4" wider than the bit. Make a mark in the center 
of the bottom (underside) of the top. Drill a hole as deep as 1/2 the length of the dowel 
screw. Be very careful not to drill through the top. 

• Wrap a small piece of tape around the drill bit at the desired depth before you drill. 

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Rustic Wood Side Table 

Step 5 — Join the top to the bottom, continued. 

• Trim the stem of the base to a length that suits you. Cut parallel to the limb joint. 

Step 6 — Join the top to the bottom, continued. 

• Drill a hole directly in the middle of the base stem. If you taped your bit, drill to that depth. 
Using Vise-Grips or other pliers, screw the dowel screw into the top. It should penetrate to 
the middle of the screw. Now, using the top for torque, screw the stem to the base. Tighten 
it well. 

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Rustic Wood Side Table 

Step 7 — Level and finish. 

• Set the table on its legs. Check the 
level with, well, a level. It helps to 
check the level of the surface your 
project is sitting on as well. Don't 
assume that your floor is true. 

• Trim the legs down to about the 
height you desire, but a little 
longer. Using the level and a saw, 
trim the bottoms of the legs until 
you get the tabletop perfectly level. 
This sounds simpler than it may 
actually be to accomplish. 

• If your top was pretty green, you 
should wait to apply a finish. How 
long? Weeks. Months. You can use 
mineral oil or walnut oil to provide 
some protection while it's drying. 

• Once it's dry, sand the top with 
220- or 240-grit sandpaper. If you 
don't like the cracks in the top, fill 
them with an appropriately hued 
wood filler and re-sand. Apply any 
wood finish you like. If you oiled it, 
you want to avoid water-based 

This project first appeared in CRAFT Volume 08 , pages 

This document was last generated on 2013-01-15 06:48:01 PM. 


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